Diane Kruger returns to her German roots with In the Fade, a tense, moving portrait of tragedy and vengeance, and the winner of the 2018 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. Helmed by German-Turkish director Fatih Akin, the film stars Kruger as Katja, a mother whose son and husband are murdered in a terrorist attack. It's an incredible performance, with the actress slipping into the empty, hollow-eyed space of insurmountable grief. She abuses drugs, alienates her family, and even attempts to take her own life. But she's eventually lifted out of her sorrow by the burning desire for revenge.
For lack of a better category, In The Fade is a revenge story, one driven by Katja's personal mission to deliver justice for her family. We soon learn that the crime was committed by a pair of neo-Nazis, who are eventually acquitted after a lengthy, emotionally charged trial. We watch as Katja sits behind the plaintiff's desk, just a few short metres away from the accused, and feel her internal world becoming more and more pressurised. Kruger's performance is more than deserving of the Best Actress award she scooped up at Cannes. She's also stated that the process of making the film wore her out, to the point that she took six months off after filming. It's easy to understand why.
Beyond Kruger's performance, what works best about the film is the format Akin employs. The narrative is split into three separate segments, set in three different environments, with three distinctive looks. In "Family" we see Katja cordoned off in her house, drowning in an ocean of grief, even as rain buckets down outside. Then there are the fluorescent lights and straight lines of the court room in "Justice". Finally we get to "The Sea", in which a softer, sunnier aesthetic belies the chapter's actual function – Katja has bid goodbye to her old life and is now bent entirely on vengeance.
Perhaps less successful is the minutiae of the film's actual plot, including the fact that the two perpetrators are acquitted despite all the evidence against them. Nor are we given much insight into their twisted psyche. In The Fade provides a thorough study of its protagonist's state of mind, but could have benefited from doing the same for its villains.